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Hawaii is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and Oahu is its crown jewel. Whether you’re looking for some quiet relaxation or adventurous exploration- this 7-day itinerary has you covered! And whether you’re a first-time visitor or returning guest, this guide will help you make the most of your time on Oahu.
It was the day before we were set to head out of California. We checked into our flights, printed out all itinerary information, and gave a call to our credit card companies. It was at this moment we were informed of Hurricane Lane, a category four hurricane set to strike Oahu Hawaii the day we planned on arriving. Well, damn.
We discussed whether we should cancel our travel plans, but as you can tell by this post, we decided to cancel nothing. Our trip to Oahu was going to happen, no matter what!
During the Day: Arrive, rental car pick up, hotel check-in, & visit Waikiki Beach
Evening: Have dinner & drinks at Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort
On the day of arrival, we picked up our rental car at the airport. I highly recommend getting a rental car while you are in Oahu. This way it’s much easier to travel around the island, and if you play your cards right, it is not that expensive. We booked ours for less than $30/day by using Discount Hawaii Car Rental.
After picking up our car, we headed to the hotel. We stayed at the VIVE hotel in Waikiki Beach, just two blocks away from the sand. For the location, the price is very reasonable.
The hotel includes a continental breakfast every morning, free beach towels and gear, and boogie boards. Our only negative about the hotel is that it only offers valet parking, which is $25/day. After doing much research, however, it turns out many hotels provide this service, and it beats having to park in the street, which can be very scarce.
Overall, we enjoyed our stay and would recommend this hotel to anyone.
After getting settled into our room, we headed down to Waikiki beach for some fun-in-the-sun. The tide was very high due to the pending hurricane, and its waves powerful. It was a surfer’s paradise!
The service was jam-packed and sporadic- making it hard to judge.
In the evening, we took a little stroll over to the Hilton Hawaiian Village Waikiki Beach Resort, also known as one of the film sets of Hawaii 5-0. There, we visited the resort’s beachfront Super Pool. There was a live band playing, bonfires, and hundreds of people enjoying the resort’s classic Hawaiian hospitality.
We sat and had a drink at the beach bar. I ordered a delicious mojito, and my boyfriend ordered the house drink, the Hawaii 5-0. It was easy to spend a reasonable amount of time here just relaxing, listening to the band, and watching the waves crashing in the distance.
During the Day: Visit the North Shore
In the Evening: Have dinner & drinks at Turtle Bay Resort
On our second day, we decided to visit the North Shore of Oahu Hawaii. The drive itself was about an hour, but it is a total change of scenery from the Waikiki area.
North Shore is considered more like the “countryside” of Oahu Hawaii with its mystical beaches, high surf, small “mom n’ pop” shops, and tons of shrimp trucks! Our drive through the small 2-lane highway was filled with lush green vegetation and the infamous Dole pineapple plantation.
A tour of the Dole Plantation was not on our list, but worth a visit if you have the time…I heard you get free pineapple ice cream, YUM!
Once passing the Dole plantation, our first stop was at Laniakea Beach; or better known as Turtle Beach. It is famous for its sightings of Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles. Unfortunately, because of the storm and heavy rains no turtles were roaming around that day…much less any people either!
Because of Hurricane Lane, it seemed that everyone was finding shelter indoors. My boyfriend and I were the only audacious ones exploring the water with a hurricane just a short distance away.
After Turtle Beach, we continued our drive down to Waimea Bay; a beach in Oahu Hawaii famous for its high waves and bold surfers who try to conquer them! Again, because of the storm, there was a high surf and tsunami warning, so no surfers were out that day. On a day when the ocean is calm, however; it’s a great place for paddleboarding, snorkeling, and even some rock jumping!
Continuing our route through North Shore we ended up at the Turtle Bay Resort– North Shore’s major hotel and resort. The resort itself includes two golf courses, surfing lessons, paddle boarding and kayaking, pools and hot tubs, and its private beach.
One thing I realized was that this hotel was used for the setting of one of my favorite movies, Forgetting Sarah Marshall! How cool is that?!?
We went to check out the beach, tiki huts, and scenery. The beach connected to the hotel is accessible to the public. We hung out for a bit until the rain became too heavy for us to be in any longer.
During the Day: Hike Manoa Falls Trail & Koko Head Trail
In the Evening: Dinner & Drinks at Kona Brewing Company
On our third day, we decided to do a bit of hiking! Manoa Falls Trail Hike was our first stop. It’s rated as an “easy” 1.5-mile hike on the All Trails app, and also known for its luscious rainforest and tropical terrain and appearances in films such as Jurassic Park and Lost.
At the final destination, you come across a beautiful waterfall and breathtaking scenic views. It’s a very humid and muddy trail- we saw some people hiking in flip flops or sandals, and their feet covered in thick mud, GROSS. My advice wear close-toed shoes suitable for hiking.
Another one of my recommendations is to take plenty of bug spray. I, unfortunately, forgot the bug spray and ended up with dozens of painful, itchy mosquito bites the next day–OUCH.
Our next hike of the day was Koko Head Stairs. Koko Head is one of the toughest hikes in Oahu Hawaii, and once we started the trek, we immediately understood why. Koko head is just under two miles in total; but is predominately all stairs- STEEP stairs at that. When we approached the trailhead, we were greeted by a girl who had just finished her journey.
We asked her if it was hard, and all she managed to say was, “I completed this in 21 minutes-I expect you to beat my time.” Almost immediately, within a few minutes of the hike, we realized 21 minutes up and down would be impossible for us. The track consists of abandoned railroad ties; previously used in WWII, to transport supplies to the top.
The hike up was strenuous- there’s no doubt about that, but the panoramic views at the top were BREATHTAKING. You can see the entire east side of Oahu, including Hanauma Bay, Diamond Head, Waikiki Beach, and so on.
When conquering this hike, don’t forget to take PLENTY OF WATER. You will regret it if you don’t.
During the Day: Snorkeling in Shark’s Cove
In the Evening: Head to Paradise Cove Luau for a traditional Hawaiian Luau
Because we felt we only got a short introduction to what North Shore had to offer, and the threat of the hurricane was finally past us, we decided to head back and do some snorkeling in Shark’s Cove.
When the surf isn’t too high, it’s a great place to snorkel and do some tide pool exploring. Locals consider this spot one of the best places on the island to snorkel. It has an abundance of tropical fish, mainly due to being part of the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District.
Getting into the water is not easy- the beach has a large number of sharp rocks, so proper water shoes are a must. Once we both finally found the safest and less rocky path into the water, we put on our snorkel gear and stuck our heads in the water.
All I have to say is, WOW. So many types of beautiful, colorful fish, coral, and sea urchins- it was impossible to look at them all! We spent hours here just admiring the fish– some fish unique to only this location.
When we were no longer able to kick our legs to swim, we turned in our snorkel gear and headed back to the hotel.
Nothing screams “Hawaiian” more than attending a traditional Hawaiian luau, and that evening we chose to go to the Paradise Cove Luau. An Oahu Hawaii local recommended it, saying it gives you “the true Hawaiian experience.”
When we arrived, we were greeted with a tropical Mai Tai and soothed by traditional Hawaiian music. Here they proceeded to take our picture in front of a beautiful beach backdrop before proceeding our seats. Our admittance ticket included two drink vouchers, hands-on activities like basket weaving, a buffet-style luau dinner, and a fantastic show, all while admiring the Oahu Hawaii skyline.
My boyfriend and I had a lovely time and would recommend this luau to anyone wishing to attend.
We woke up to head back to North Shore (yes- we did a lot of driving, which is why I highly recommend renting a car) for Hawaii’s infamous shark tours.
We had an early morning with North Shore’s Shark Cage Diving In Oahu for some shark cage diving! When signing up, the company guarantees shark sightings- or your money back! Shark cage diving has always been on my bucket list, so my boyfriend and I could not pass this up.
We started the tour with 15 people on a charter boat and headed approximately 3 miles out in the water. Once there, we split off into two groups, and each took a 20-minute turn inside the cage. Immediately when getting in the water, 8-12 foot Galapagos sharks surrounded us! Even though we knew these were harmless sharks, it was still chilling to be in the water with these predators.
In the evening, we attended a dinner cruise with the Oahu Pacific Star Sunset Dinner Cruise. The Cruise offers many different types of dinner cruises from luxury/fancy, family-based, casual, and so on. The Pacific Star is the “casual” ship, but many people, including ourselves, were dressed up.
The crew welcomed us with a Mai Tai, traditional Hawaiian music, and poi (Hawaiian bread) at our table. The dinner was delicious- one of our favorite meals of the week- and featured a roast beef carving station. During dinner, the entertainment was a live and interactive Polynesian show.
By the end of the night, everyone was up singing and dancing along!
Hanauma Bay is one of the best places on the island to snorkel. Hanauma Bay is a declared nature preserve park as of 1967. It is a protected marine life conservation area. All first-timers, as a requirement, watch a 9-minute introductory video upon entering the park. The video goes over the marine life, preservation and safety rules, and how to refrain from mistreating the marine life.
Overall, we enjoyed our time here at Hanauma Bay. However, we did feel it a tad overpriced, and not much different from Shark’s Cove in terms of fish and coral. It was clear it was a very touristy location to snorkel which explained the high cost of parking fees, park entrance fees, and snorkel gear.
After snorkeling, we took a little break before heading out to Waikiki for some bar hopping along the beach.
There are dozens of places to stop and have a drink along the water, but our three favorites- based on hospitality, quality of drinks, prices, and location were:
If you enjoy sipping a Mai Tai while gazing off into the Hawaiian sunset, these bars are for you.
During the Day: Spend one last day on the beach before catching your flight home!
Evening: Flight home
Today was our final day on Oahu Hawaii. We decided to sleep in until check out, and then take in one last look at Waikiki. We sat on the beach and gazed into the water while talking about our trip and how we didn’t want to leave this beautiful place.
If you’ve ever done this before, read all about post-vacation depression and how it can affect you, here.
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